Brad Wieck, at 6-9, has the reach and athleticism to swat balls left and right, the skills and quickness to dominate around the net.
"I'm fantastic at it!" he boasts as he stiffens his shoulders and nods self-assuredly. "I've been playing since I was a kid, but I've gotten much better and more intense."
We were, of course, talking about table tennis -- the pastime of choice in the Brooklyn Cyclones' clubhouse. Wieck, despite his height, said he never played organized basketball.
"But I really think I could've been a professional ping-pong player," he said, only half-jokingly.
Alas, those table tennis dreams have been, well, tabled. Wieck is a professional baseball player, a reliever for Class-A Brooklyn, and a dominant one at that.
The Mets' draft in June was, literally, a tall order. Wieck, 22, was a seventh-rounder, selected two rounds behind 6-8 righthander Josh Prevost. The Cyclones have six pitchers 6-6 or taller, including 6-11 Dominican Martires Arias.
Wieck's strikeout numbers in college made him a standout -- although he stands out by simply standing up. With his low three-quarters arm angle, Wieck said the comparisons to Randy Johnson are often made, though he doesn't throw as hard or have quite the menacing demeanor.
Wieck excelled at Oklahoma City University last season, leading the nation with 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. (His OCU teammate Chris Pike, from Water Mill, is pitching in the Tampa Bay system.) Wieck has maintained that success in the bullpen for the Cyclones. Through Friday, he had 32 strikeouts with a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 22 innings.
"The rest of us [relievers] are getting jealous because he's hogging all the strikeouts," Prevost joked. "He's been overpowering and blowing guys away."
That persistent breeze in the late innings at MCU Park could be from Coney Island beach . . . or batters being fanned.
"Strikeouts have always been big for me," said Wieck, a native of Amarillo, Texas, whom teammates have nicknamed The Big Donkey. "I guess the height throws hitters off a little."
Scouts say Wieck hides the ball well in his delivery and has good arm-side run, which causes the fastball to tail away from righthanders. His repertoire includes a changeup and a 92-95 mph four-seamer. But Wieck said it's the sweeping slider that has been his "go-to" pitch.
Oddly, the development of the slider was thanks in large part to Tommy John surgery in 2010. Even after a full rehabilitation, "it was really painful to throw my curveball," he said. "I needed another breaking ball, so I started experimenting with a slider . . . It might be the best thing that ever happened to me."
Wieck drew college interest as an 11th-grader, when he grew five inches. He signed to play at New Mexico but injured his elbow during the summer after 12th grade. After red-shirting a year, Wieck made stops at two junior colleges, eventually playing his senior year at OCU. Wieck was drafted by the Phillies in the 29th round in 2012 but didn't sign "because of the money," he said.
"It's been a long road, but I'm glad it's brought me where I am now," Wieck said. "Even jumping from place to place, the comforting thing for me was the game is no different. Home plate is always 60 feet, 6 inches away."
Actually, with Wieck's height, maybe a little less.
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